Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. was more than an innovator and business owner — he was also a veteran.
The son of Swedish immigrants, Walgreen interrupted his budding pharmacy career to enlist with the Illinois National Guard and fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. His primary assignment was working in a hospital dispensary, which exposed him to yellow fever, complicated by malaria, a combination that was nearly fatal to him.
In time he recovered, returned to civilian life, and spent the following years working in various Chicago drugstores, sometimes for short periods at each. Thus he gained knowledge of the practice of pharmacy and experience with business techniques that distinguished the successful drugstore from the less so. He learned a lot about the art and value of good customer service. Before long he wanted to be his own boss and, in 1901, bought the pharmacy he worked at in Chicago. Walgreens, the company, was born.
In its first few years, Walgreens became known for its "two-minute stunt." Customers who were in the immediate vicinity of the drugstore would call to order non-prescription items, and Walgreen would slowly repeat the order and delivery address back to the customer, loud enough for an assistant to take down the details. Walgreen would then chat up the customer long enough for the assistant to make the trip to the delivery address. Sometimes, with Walgreen still on the phone, the customer would excuse him or herself from the phone to answer the door, and return in amazement at how quickly the order had arrived. It was a feat of sufficient theatricality that it earned good word-of-mouth advertising.
Eight years after the first Walgreens opened its doors, the second location in Chicago opened.
By 1916, there were nine stores and by the time of the company's 25th anniversary of service, 92 stores were operating in the Chicago area alone, many featuring soda fountains.
During World War II, more than 2,500 Walgreens employees served in the military, 20 percent of its workforce. Forty-eight did not survive the war.
In 1943, Walgreens supported the war effort by opening a nonprofit, 6,000-square-foot store inside the Pentagon. Elsewhere, stores around the country sold $41 million in war bonds and stamps.
Walgreens continued to grow with the post war boom, and by 1975, hit $1 billion in sales. By 1984 Walgreens opened its 1,000th store.
Over the decades, the community and civic engagement for which Charles Walgreen was known evolved with the company to become a corporate-wide commitment to social responsibility. In addition to supporting numerous philanthropic causes, Walgreens has shown innovations in environmental sustainability, mirrored the diversity of America through its employment and vendor policies, and earned an international reputation as a model employer of people with disabilities.
From its humble early aspirations to make a name in Chicago, to its current aspiration to be America's most-loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing and beauty retailer, Walgreens in 2016 boasts a total of over 8,100 stores in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands.
After 115 years of service to the country, Walgreens is honored to also serve those in the military who have defended our country.
As part of the Express Scripts network of pharmacy providers, Walgreens stands ready to give Tricare members the excellent service for which it is famous. With over 8,000 in-network pharmacies from which to choose, Walgreens is well-positioned to champion every Tricare members' right to be happy and healthy.